Yawn.. ya I need a break.. O man the mountains ?? They are just too far from Delhi, it takes too much time to reach any mountain from Delhi, the roads are bad, the public transport sucks, who is mad to drive that long, I won’t take my car …. blah blah blah blah.
I had infinite reasons not to go out of Delhi on weekends. And was I complaining ? – Nah !

But don’t know what struck me and I was busy planning my trip to McLeod Ganj and around the very next moment. And boy was I happy being there ? You bet I was – it was actually cloud # 9 and no, not because its some 1700 meters above sea level :)

Oh, by the way I’m Anupam – coincidentally the admin for inspiredspirits.net :)
28 – 30 Aug 09

The planning began by applying for a leave for 28th August. That approved, next was logistics. Abhishek (I did not have much choice here !) and I got the train tickets booked from New Delhi Railway Station to Pathankot for the morning of 28th August and our return tickets for a late evening Volvo with Himachal Roadways for the 30th.

Next was accomodation and itenary. Thanks to Munish (my old friend and trusted ‘dial-a-real-time-travel-guide’) – those were taken care of. Post work on 27th night (early 28th morning), we took our train to Pathankot. Having seldom travelled in Indian trains, I was pleasently surprised at the comfort and service in the AC 2 tier coaches. Out of the 8 hours, I spent good 4 hours or so sleeping. The rest 4 were spent chatting, watching movies on the iPod etc. And ofcourse, clicking some random pics as the sun played around with the clouds.


        

We reached Pathankot around lunch and took an autorickshaw to the bus station. There was no direct bus to McLeod Ganj, but there was one for Dharamshala. The earliest was to leave in 30 minutes. Surprisingly the bus was boarded by many tourists – people from Israel, Italy, Russia, Germany etc and ofcourse our fellow Indians.

It was raining on our way from Pathankot to Dharamshala and I was fearing if our plans would go down the drain.. but so wrong I was (and so glad !). The hotel we stayed in (Hotel Shivalik) was a treat. For just INR 1000 per day, we got a deluxe room with a huge balcony overlooking the valley. The view was breathtaking and is not possible to explain in words. The best I can say is that I had to pinch my self to believe I was actually seeing this. Out came my camera and I was busy capturing it all. See the below pics to see what I mean.


We had our dinner at the ‘Ashoka Hotel’. Good ambience and nice music with authentic food from the world over (though I stuck to my favorite North Indian). That day was over post dinner – was just too tired after almost 13 hours of journey. The next day we woke up early and headed for Bhagsunag. It was around 2 kilometers from our hotel so we decided to go their by foot. The walk from our hotel to the valley was full of visual splendor as well.On the way we visited the Bhagsunag temple before heading for the famed waterfall.





The climb up to the falls was very tiring. However it was equally pleasant and enjoyable. I clicked some pictures but just to realise that the camera was not able to capture even 50% of what the human eye can. The different views and the weather in the valley is truly majestic. They change evey minute ! There’s a clear view of the valley now and suddenly you are surrounded in clouds. It’s sunny one moment and the next it’s raining ! Hah now I know why they say – A picture is worth a thousand words – indeed it is. See the pics below – they remotely show what we witnessed..



There is this beautiful cafe few hundered feet before the falls where we had our tea and snacks. It was so refreshing in the clean and pure air. Cafe itself was made up quite beautifully with stones and some petty everyday stuff. We spent good half hour before moving up the valley with my camera shooting with more speed than an automatic. The ‘cafe man’ was generous enough to pose for the camera as well (see the third pic below).



The fall was beautiful. Unfortunately I was not able to click much pics here due to the water, but we did spend good 45 minutes or so splashing around in the chilly crystal clear water. We were lucky to reach there around noon as soon after the place was full of people making it a bit uncomfortable. We trekked our way up to Shiva cafe – again tiresome but worth the effort. Lucky again this place was not flocked by many people and we were the only ones apart from the cafe owners there. We spent a couple of hours at the cafe lazing around in the vicinity and admiring the beauty of nature. We left as the place began to get crowded slowly. We went our way down and then up again to Dharamkot.



Our trek up to Dharamkot was relatively easy as compared to Bhagsunag. Well it was atleast for me – as now the backpack was with Abhishek and I did not have a mountain cow chasing me down the terrain. Lol yes, poor Abhishek had almost made it to the top when some kids began throwing stones at a cow. The cow ran like a horse down the hill but the way Abhishek ran it seemed Mr cow was behind his .. he he :) So Abhishek climbed up half the terrain AGAIN with the backpack intact (much to my relief as it had my cameras and stuff). And yes, he was intact too ! Our dinner was at a ’supposedly’ Italian restaurant. Unfortunately it was not the best places to have Italian.

Next day was our last in Mcleod Ganj, so we began early. We spent the morning at the monastery. It was my first visit to any monastery and I was mesmerized yet again. On our way back to the hotel we had a quick pit stop for hot chocolate.


We checked out of the hotel at around 11 am and boarded the cab provided by the hotel guy. Suprisingly the Suzuki Omni powered by a puny 800 cc engine was good in the mountains and had just enough ground clearnace. Our bus to Delhi was at 8 pm in the evening so we had approximately 9 hours with us. Our guide & driver Rahul took us first to the church of St. John in Dharamshala.


Just like the monastery, church of St. John was an experience in itself. Victorian architecture and nature were blended so closely it felt they grew together. From the trees to the creepers to the moss and the church, it was no designer stuff but felt nothing less.



After spending 30 minutes or so at the chruch we drove to Naddi. It was foggy that day but neverthless we were able to catch glimpses of the valley and around. The walk from the taxi stand to the Ashram was particulary beautiful. We had to hop a few fences to reach the place (See the pics below and you’ll know what I mean !)

Unlike the urban jungles we live in, nature here is in much sync with our species. I was suprised by the flock of birds in the tea shop – they hopped around us with so much ease, it seemed we were not there. The pics below are from the actual distance between us and them – these sparrows were just few feet away and were not at all camera shy.




Our next stop was Kangra fort. I was not too keen to visit a fort but was glad later that I did go. Like the church of St. James, this fort was many centuries old and blended well with the surroundings. I was taken aback with awe when we reached the top. You stand there and turn 360 degrees – you see the beautiful valley on all sides.

Since it was raining (drizzling I’ll say) we had decided not to spend much time at the fort, but we ended up spending almost three hours – oblivious of the rain and hypnotised by nature.






When we reached our cab, Rahul reminded us that we had one more place to visit before we boarded our bus to Delhi. On the way I could not help but capture the changing skylight in the evening. We were racing against time, but Rahul drove swiftly in the slippery terrain and managed to reach Chamunda Mata temple by 7.20 pm. He gave us strict instructions not to spend more than ten minutes at the temple if we planned to catch our bus. Like obidient school boys, we nodded and literally ran into the temple, spent those 7-8 minutes there and ran our way back to the cab. The drive from the temple to the bus station in Dharamshala was nail biting – Rahul was driving as if he was in WRC and I was constantly looking at my watch in hope.


Finally at sharp 7.56 pm we reached the bus station and our cab screeched to a halt few feet from the bus. Very few people understand the term “long-term-business-sense” and I guess Rahul was one of them. He had given excellent service and had shown us 1-2 places more than in the itenary. We tipped him well and boarded our bus to Delhi.

On our way back I was already planning my next trip back to Mcleod Ganj ! I’m sure I’ll be back there very soon.

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